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Nix Knee Pain With 6 Effective At-Home Strengthening Exercises (Video Tutorials)

Working the muscles around your knees helps protect them and ease pain.

Suffering from knee pain? It can affect you at any age, and it isn’t always easy to narrow down the cause. The pain may be a result of strain, injury, or a medical condition like arthritis. It’s also a common complaint: Research from 2019 reports that approximately one in every four people suffer from chronic knee pain. But when you consider that the knee is the largest joint in the body and bears most of your weight, this statistic comes as less of a surprise. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s irreversible — gentle, at-home strengthening exercises can help combat the pain.

If you have osteoarthritis, are recovering from an injury, or have generalized knee pain from joint strain, exercises are a highly effective way of reducing pain. Why? Strong muscles around the knee help absorb shock and reduce the stress on the joint. When done correctly, these exercises also prevent further injury. Of course, strengthening movements are just one piece of the puzzle — your doctor may recommend additional types of therapy to improve your symptoms. Still, taking 10 minutes of your day to exercise those muscles is a great place to start.

To make sure you’re doing the right movements and doing them correctly, we reached out to Dr. Rami Hashish, PhD, DPT, who curated a custom, knee-strengthening workout routine for women over 40. Keep reading to learn the five exercises he recommends.

Note: Speak to a doctor or physical trainer before attempting these exercises. If you feel pain while performing any of these movements, stop immediately and talk with your doctor.

Meet our expert.

Rami Hashish, PhD, DPT, is a body performance and injury expert. He is also the founder of the National Biomechanics Institute and has been retained as an expert witness on more than 1,000 occasions, examining injuries in sports, the workplace, motor vehicle, and aviation accidents. You can follow Dr. Hashish on TikTok (@injuryexpert) or on Instagram (@dr.ramihashish).

1. Glute Bridge

“Bridges help to strengthen the glute muscles and stretch out the hip flexors, improving the stability and strength around the pelvis,” Dr. Hashish explains. “Insufficient pelvis strength, stability, and mobility can lead to compensatory — and injurious — movement patterns at the knee.” In other words, weak muscles around your pelvis can cause you to compensate by walking and moving in unhealthy ways, leading to more knee problems and a greater chance of injury. Here are Dr. Hashish’s instructions on how to do a glute bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with hands on your chest, knees bent, and feet on the floor.
  2. Raise your buttocks off the ground, engaging your glute muscles.
  3. Slowly lower your buttocks back to the ground.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Bonus challenge: the single-leg glute bridge. “Lifting one leg off the ground and incorporating a straight leg raise further helps to strengthen the quadriceps muscles, thereby improving the strength and stability around the knee joint,” says Dr. Hashish. To do: Lift one leg off the ground as you complete the glute bridge. Repeat five times on one leg, then five times on the other leg.

2. Hamstring Curls

“Standing hamstring curls serve to strengthen the hamstrings on the leg that is performing the curl, thereby improving the strength and stability of the knee joint,” says Dr. Hashish. “They also promote strength and stability of the hip and knee on the standing leg.” How to:

  1. Stand with your feet in parallel, about a hip-width distance apart.
  2. Bending your right leg at the knee, curl your leg upwards towards your buttocks. Lower it back down to the ground.
  3. Repeat 10 times on your right leg and 10 times on your left.

Bonus challenge: Use ankle weights to increase resistance. (A two to three-pound ankle weight is enough to do the trick.)

3. Prone Straight Leg Raise

“Prone straight leg raises help to strengthen the muscles on the back of the leg — namely, the hip extensors (i.e. glutes) and hamstring muscles,” says Dr. Hashish. Why strengthen the glutes if they control hip motion? It’s all about indirectly helping your knees. “Improper hip motion and insufficient hip strength can expose the knee to injurious positions and motions,” he explains. “Hamstring strength helps you properly bend the knee and stabilize the knee joint.” How to:

  1. Lie flat on your stomach, legs straight, arms bent, palms resting on the ground in front of your head. (You may rest your head on the backs of your hands to reduce the strain on your neck.)
  2. While keeping your knee straight, Raise your right leg up as far as it can go, stomach still flat on the ground.
  3. Slowly lower your right leg down to the ground.
  4. Repeat 10 times on right leg and 10 times on left.

4: Side Stepping With a Band

“Side stepping with a band is an excellent exercise that targets the muscles on the side of your hip joint,” says Dr. Hashish. “If these muscles are weak, it can cause the knees to fall inwards, affecting their stability and exposing them to a higher risk of injury.” While this exercise requires a band, keep in mind that exercise bands are relatively inexpensive and available at Amazon, Walmart, Target, and nearly any store that carries exercise equipment. How to:

  1. Place the band below your knees and stand up straight, feet at a hip-width distance apart.
  2. Bend your knees slightly so you are in a partial squat.
  3. Step laterally to the right side (right foot moves first, then left foot follows).
  4. Continue stepping to the right until you feel fatigue in your right buttock (that slight burning sensation). This is usually after about 8 to 12 side steps.
  5. Sidestep to the left until you feel fatigue in your left buttock.

Note: For thicker bands (with more resistance), you have the option to place the band above your knees.

5. Straight Leg Raise

“Supine straight leg raises help to strengthen the muscles on the front of the leg — namely, the hip flexors and quadriceps (i.e. front thigh),” Dr. Hashish says. “Sufficient quadriceps strengthening is necessary to stabilize the knee joint, as well as to ensure that it straightens properly.” How to:

  1. Lie flat on your back, legs straight, arms at your sides.
  2. While keeping your knee straight and foot flexed (instead of pointed), raise your right leg up as far as it can go.
  3. Slowly lower your right leg down to the ground.
  4. Repeat 10 times on your right leg and 10 times on your left.

6. Wall Sit Squats

“A wall sit is a dynamic lower-body exercise that targets muscles throughout the hip and knee, with particular emphasis on the glutes and quads,” says Dr. Hashish. He adds that it’s a highly functional exercise, meaning it improves everyday movement. “We perform squat-like activities throughout the day — getting out of bed, getting into or out of a chair, picking up something off the ground, or getting into our car,” he explains.

In addition, wall sit squats are a classic “finisher” movement because they increase muscle endurance. That endurance reduces your risk of injury — because, as Dr. Hashish points out, “we are most vulnerable to injury when we are fatigued.” How to:

  1. Place your back against a wall, legs shoulder width or slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. Squat down, letting your back slide down on the wall.
  3. Squat back up to standing.
  4. Repeat the movement 10 times.

Bonus challenge: Maintain a wall sit. Squat down into a sitting position, with thighs parallel to the ground. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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